Chanel slingback heels are one of the most recognisable fashion creations of the twentieth century. Their history dates back to 1957, when the first iteration of these iconic shoes made its debut. Originally in black and beige, the colour combination was carefully chosen not only to convey timeless elegance, but also to emphasise femininity (to shorten the foot and to elongate the leg). Unsurprisingly, these “new Cinderella slippers”, as they were proclaimed at the time, instantly won the hearts of fashion lovers with the most glamorous stars of the era, like Bridgette Bardot or Catherine Deneuve, photographed wearing them.

The modern take on the Chanel slingback heels is the work of Karl Lagerfeld and his 2015 Autumn/Winter collection. Today, the design symbolises not only style and sophistication but is also universally applauded for its comfort and practicality, mostly thanks to the small, block heel providing a good deal of support. And while the classic combination of nude and black is still the most popular option, Chanel continues to delight us with a vast array of finishes and seasonal colours to choose from.

My journey with the glamorous Chanel slingback heels started relatively recently. The main reason why I have been delaying the purchase is that my previous experiences with slingbacks have not been particularly great. Annoyingly, the elasticated strap somehow always ended up sliding from the back of my foot, making them unwearable. £700 for unusable shoes? No, thanks… But that was before I came across the pair in black tweed. Practical or not, it was definitely the case of love at the first sight, so I had to have them.

As I finally succumbed to the temptation of Chanel slingbacks, in this review, I will share my thoughts on whether the shoes have turned out to be a sensible investment or just another impulsive and pointless, purchase. After all, paying a small fortune for a pair of tweed shoes which may or may not be usable, might put into question one’s sanity. I will also shed some light on their comfort and sizing, which hopefully will be a useful guide for anyone thinking of buying their first pair of Chanel slingback heels.

Picture of Chanel slingback heels

Do Chanel slingbacks run true to size?

The first, and quite an important point to note regarding Chanel slingback heels is that the sizing is somewhat awkward. Thus, if you are thinking of buying the shoes, and have an opportunity to try them on before the purchase, I would strongly recommend doing so. To get the right fit, I had to go down half a size, which came as a bit of a shock. I always opt for size 37.5 in Chanel ballerinas, loafers and pumps, and even had to upsize to 38 in espadrilles (for review, click here). But size 37? Never!

Prior to venturing into the boutique, I read some reviews saying that Chanel slingbacks ran true to size. Thus, the first pair I tried on was in my usual size 37.5. The fit was absolutely fine. The only issue was, the slingback did not hold my foot particularly firmly in place. It felt ok-ish, but it was not overly tight. And in case you wonder, I do not have an unusually slim or narrow foot.

While I loved the look of size 37.5, I could not see any easy way of making them more secure because, unfortunately, the back strap of this design is non-adjustable. Well, not unless you could find a reputable cobbler to shorten it for you without causing much damage to the shoes (but that was not the kind of risk I was prepared to take). I was also worried that, with use, the elasticated part of the back strap would relax further, and become even more floppy, by being continuously exposed to stretching and pulling while walking.

After trying on a few different pairs in size 37.5 (both in tweed and leather, for comparison), it became quite apparent that the shoes were not going to stay on, no matter what. Frankly, at that point I was convinced that the dream of owning Chanel slingback heels was truly over. Surely, there was no way a smaller size would do the job without the dreaded floating heel spilling from the back of the shoe, looking ridiculous. Or so I thought…

Reluctantly, I tried on size 37. The shoes were notably smaller, but the fit was not terrible. The toe box turned out to be reasonably generous. In terms of dimensions, the inner sole of size 37 measures 25cm which is quite close to what you would usually expect from size 37.5 anyway. The heel of the foot was also confined within the shoe without spilling out at the back, but admittedly, only-just. Most importantly, the back strap felt much tighter and I could walk in them without the worry that the slingback would slip off my foot. Honestly, in terms of fit, size 37 was 4 on the scale of 5, and they would have been 5 had they been a tiny bit bigger.

The sales assistant was trying to assure me that the slingbacks would stretch and that the smaller size was right for me. To be honest, I have never felt comfortable with the idea of buying luxury footwear, smaller than my regular size, hoping that they would wear-in and expand. However, in this instance it seemed to be the only viable option if I wanted to add these beautiful Chanel slingbacks to my collection.

In fairness, it turned out to be the right decision. After a few wears, the shoes had a much better fit. The toe box loosened and the shoes no longer looked as if they might be a tad too small. The photograph below shows what the fit looks like now:

Chanel singbacks in size 37
The above photo shows Chanel slingbacks in tweed in size 37, which have been worn a few times (my usual size in Chanel is 37.5)

While I reckon that the tweed version of Chanel slingback heels in more likely to stretch, the leather ones are also bound to relax, eventually, as the design naturally pushes the foot forward into the toe box while walking.

In a nutshell, based on my experience with Chanel slingback heels, the advice one getting the sizing right is: (1) try them on, if you can, before buying; (2) if you can’t, consider the shape of your foot. If it is slim to normal (i.e. no high in-step) you may need to downsize so the elasticated back strap is sufficiently tight. This will be the case especially if you are opting for the softer, tweed finish; (3) be aware that these slingbacks – both the toe box and the back strap – have a tendency to stretch so do not panic if the initial fit is a little tight, as they do give way eventually. [Back to Menu]

Side view of Chanel block heel shoes

Are Chanel slingback heels comfortable?

For a long time, Chanel slingback heels have been hailed as one of the most comfortable designer shoes out there. After all, Gabrielle Chanel wanted to create the ultimate shoes which could be worn from morning until evening. Having tried them, I can honestly say that for a pair of high heels, Chanel slingbacks deserve all the accolades that come their way.

The first thing that really struck me about the tweed version of Chanel slingback heels was how roomy they were. The fronts are profiled to create a pretty, feminine silhouette, gently narrowing towards the ends. Even though the tips are shaped to be relatively pointy (albeit, not spiky), the fit is not too tight. Unless you have a particularly wide foot, the likelihood of experiencing pains, blisters or squashed toes should be relatively low.

What is more, I found the shoes perfectly comfortable from the very first wear. This may be something to do with the fact that the slingbacks in tweed have only one layer of leather i.e. the inner lining, while the outer shell is made of a very supple and malleable textile. I have read some reviews saying that the leather version takes a little while before the shoes become properly wearable. I might have been just lucky, but my pair of tweedy Chanel slingbacks did not require any breaking-in at all.

The contrasting toe caps have been quite a revelation too and so they deserve a mention here. They feel far more relaxed to what I would normally expect from Chanel shoes. I own one pair of Chanel flats with near-identical, narrowing fronts where the tips (made of patent leather) are so unbearably tight, that wearing them feels positively torturous. This is why, I felt a bit apprehensive about the cut of the slingback heels and how wearable they would be.

Amazingly, in the case of the slingbacks the pointy tips are not constricting at all. This may be thanks to the grosgrain cover, which is soft and does not add that extra layer of stiffness usually associated with leather, and especially patent. There are some variations of Chanel slingbacks where the toe cap is made of leather but I do not own them so I cannot comment whether there is any difference in comfort. All I can say is that if you opt for the version with the grosgrain cap, you are less likely to experience any agonising pains or tightness caused by the tips.

Chanel slingback heels in tweed vs flats with patent toe cap
This photo is a side by side comparison of my Chanel slingback heels with a grosgrain toe cap and a pair of Chanel flats with with a patent tip. Even though the fronts are identical, the patent tips feel very tight, whereas the grosgrain tips are soft and comfortable.

My favourite part of Chanel slingbacks is the block heel measuring 6cm. It is high enough to elevate the foot but not to the point of making the shoes difficult to walk in. The shape of the heel provides decent support and makes the shoes very stable. It also protects the ball of the foot from excessive pressure.

There is no denying, in terms of appearance the chunky heels are not the most charming. They have a distinctly matronly feel and are nowhere near as attractive as stilettos. However, to me this is a secondary consideration. What really matters is how comfortable Chanel slingbacks are, and the block heel plays a big part in that. Besides, the rest of the shoe design makes up for this little shortcoming with its delicate and elegant silhouette which balances, and distracts from, the thick and demure heel. [Back to Menu]

Picture on a staircase featuring Chanel block heels

Comfortable, but…

Overall, Chanel slingback heels are very comfortable. But could I wear them all day? Not so sure… I have been able to wear mine for a few hours at any one time without experiencing any aches, or the foot getting tired. They are also very easy to walk in because the height of the heel is just right. However, I would not say that the design of the slingback makes them particularly suitable for longer strolls. The “barely-there” back strap may look good, but it is also quite thin and only partially secures the foot within the shoe.

This photo shows the narrow straps of Chanel slingbacks and how they only join the toe box on one side

As you can see from the above photo, the back strap extends from the uppers on one side, connects by means of a vertical strip to the sole, then runs over the heel linking directly to the inner sole on the opposite side. There is no additional structure to provide any extra support. The only stabilising element in Chanel slingback heels is the strap itself. Although safe in principle, it does not prevent the foot from moving within the shoe while walking (especially as a part of the strap is elasticated). To put it in a context, I would not feel particularly confident running in my slingbacks to catch a train, or walking down a long escalator, in fear of losing at least one of the shoes in the process. Whoever called them the new Cinderella Slippers was definitely onto something! 😉.

There is also another consideration. I have noticed that after a couple of hours of wear, the back straps loosen their grip and begin to slide off. This happens slowly and gradually, but eventually it gets to the point where it is impossible to take a few steps without having to stop to adjust them. This can be extremely annoying. It might just be the nature of the pair I bought or the fact that my Chanel slingback heels are made of tweed so the straps are softer, but it may also be the flaw of the design. From the reviews I have read so far, it seems there are some who has encountered this issue while others have not.  So who knows…

Luckily, after the initial panic, a quick research on the Internet has given me some ideas on how to tackle this issue. So how to stop Chanel slingbacks slipping off? The first method, which I found quite effective, was spraying the back of the foot with some firm-hold hairspray and then waiting for it to dry prior to putting the shoes on. The stronger the hold, the better. Thanks to this little trick, the skin becomes less smooth, thus creating more friction and resistance when the strap moves. This helps to keep it in place for longer.

An alternative method, which also works for me, is affixing self-adhesive, suede sling grips to the inner part of the strap. Again, the rough texture of the grips prevents the sling from sliding off. I tend to purchase mine online as there are plenty of shops selling them these days. They can also be trimmed to size and replaced after a few wears, if needed. The only thing that I am not so crazy about is the fact that I have not been able to find grips which match the colour of my shoes, so they show a little bit (although I am probably the only person seeing them because I know they are there). I am aware there are transparent silicone grips which may be less visible, but from the reviews I have read they do not seem to work as well so, for now, I will stick with the suede grips instead. [Back to Menu]

Side view of Chanel slingback heels photographed on a Spanish staircase

Longevity and the tweed dilemma

There are many things which can be said about Chanel slingback heels. They are beautiful, elegant, luxurious and timeless. And if you opt for the finish shown in this post, you will end up with a pair of shoes wrapped in one of the most iconic and magnificent fabrics ever – the one and only Chanel tweed.  But that is, for as long as they last.

Admittedly, longevity is not high up on the list of merits of these beautiful tweed block heels. To stand any chance of survival in the city jungle, the shoes need to be properly taken care of because of their very fragile nature. To be honest, when I bought mine, I did not anticipate the extent to which I would have to baby them. Perhaps, I should have gone for the goatskin leather version after all…

The first issue? Striking as it is, the outer shell of these stunning Chanel slingback heels is made of fabric which cannot be cleaned. At the time of purchase, I asked the sales assistant if the shoes could be restored at Chanel once they started picking up dust or dirt. Unfortunately, the answer was a resounding “no”.  If you choose a darker shade of tweed, like black or navy blue, keeping the shoes clean should not be so much of a problem because they will be less susceptible to staining. However, if you decide to go with one of the lighter colours, like cream or pink tweed (which, by the way, are absolutely gorgeous) you will have to be considerably more careful.

As if that was not enough, the question of the delicate exterior is further exacerbated by the grosgrain toe cap. Whoever came up with the design knows no mercy!  The smooth grosgrain finish is very good looking and fabulously compliments the tweed. But the beautiful looks are a high price to pay for a pair of shoes which can only be worn in the most perfect weather conditions and in a near-sterile environment.

To preserve the grosgrain, and to keep it looking presentable, requires some maintenance. I have noticed that the black surface attracts all kinds of white bits and specks of dust. This may be more noticeable in the pair I own because the rest of the shoe is also black, so anything lighter instantly stands out. Before putting them on, I usually have to brush off the toe caps to remove any unwanted bits. Otherwise, the shoes look somewhat unkempt.

Close-up of toe caps of Chanel slingback heels showing specs on the grosgrain
In this photo, you can see quite clearly all the specs and dust building up on the top of the grosgrain toe caps.

It is also best to keep the grosgrain away from liquids. Unwittingly, I have dropped some on mine recently – it might have been coffee, water or even hand sanitiser, who knows – which has resulted in the fabric developing tiny stains. They are not obvious, and only visible in certain type of light, but I know they are there, which indicates that the material is prone to some discolouration.

Lastly, and unsurprisingly, the grosgrain tips of Chanel slingbacks are prone to wearing off. I have noticed that the fabric already started weakening after a few wears. There is no easy way of shielding the toe caps, especially when they are wrapped in a relatively fragile material, other than by having the shoes resoled. The soles of Chanel slingbacks are notably thin from the start and do not safeguard the tips particularly well. So to prolong their lives, I would strongly recommend budgeting for having them re-soled to give them some much-needed extra protection.

All of this sounds quite daunting, doesn’t it? I have to be honest, the tweed version of the slingbacks may not be suitable for those who are particularly risk averse. If you prefer making long-term shoe investments, it may be safer to opt for the goatskin version which should be easier to clean and maintain, or choose a version with leather toe caps, if you can find it. That should take care of at least one of the potential stress factors.

But it is not all bad. In fact, the tweed slingbacks have one distinct advantage over the leather version, i.e. they are much better at hiding wrinkles and creases in leather. The lines are a natural process and begin to develop with use when the leather bends during walking. Unfortunately, they also affect the appearance of the uppers by making them look aged. By having the outer shell covered in a soft and supple fabric any wrinkles, that would normally form, are hidden. This definitely helps to maintain that fresh-out-of-the-box look for much longer. To me, this is one of the best aspects of the tweed version of Chanel slingback heels which makes up for some of the issues stemming from their delicate nature. [Back to Menu]

Chanel slingback heels

Are Chanel slingback heels worth it?

I have absolutely no regrets about adding Chanel slingbacks to my collection. Classic, stylish and exquisitely crafted, it is very difficult not to fall in love with them. They are the type of shoes you end up reaching out for more and more, as you own them, because they are so versatile. They look great with jeans, but they will also look the part paired up with elegant evening dresses. On top of that, they are fabulously comfortable, as long as you figure out a way to secure them and stop the pesky straps slipping off the back your feet. Chanel slingback heels are so perfect that you will have to convince yourself not to wear them every day. And I really mean it.

My only issue with these glamorous slingbacks is the price. Like all Chanel shoes, they are very expensive. A pair in a tweed finish, like the one shown in this review, currently costs £680, while the leather version retails at £710 (prices as of December 2020 in the UK). I do not mind investing in costly, timeless pieces because I see long-term worth in them. However, I am not sure if Chanel slingback heels have the capacity to last that many years. Seeing as the shoes are made from, or incorporate, reasonably perishable materials like grosgrain or tweed, I cannot help but feel that they are immensely expensive for what they are. I do hope the heels will prove me wrong, and that they will hold their shape for a long time, and still look fantastic with it.

If there is any consolation regarding the steep pricing, it is the fact that the shoes preserve their value reasonably well. Therefore, if you manage to keep yours in a decent condition and, subsequently, decide to sell them on the second-hand luxury market like Vestiaire, you are likely to reclaim a good chunk of your money. This is partially caused by the regular and considerably price hikes from Chanel. It was only a few years ago that the shoes cost just over £400 and look at the price now!

Also, if you are after a good bargain, the slingbacks can be found at the Chanel boutique at Terminal 3 of the London Heathrow airport at 20% off, duty free. Of course, with the current travel restrictions they may not be as easily available now, but during “normal times” they were in stock almost every time I visited the shop.

So are they worth all the fuss? Even though Chanel slingbacks are pricey, prone to wear and tear and require some regular upkeep, I would still recommend buying them. In fact, I am already eyeing the beige and black version myself! The truth is that with a proper level of care and attention, which most definitely includes having them resoled, the shoes have a potential to become a staple of your wardrobe, particularly if, like me, you are drawn to classic designer styles. In that respect, Chanel slingbacks will be worth every penny spent on them. Overall verdict: A high-maintenance icon. [Back to Menu]

Picture of Chanel slingbacks sitting on the wall

Photos by Unwrapped.Fashion

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